by Various Authors (Stephen Jones – Editor)
“But they can’t have memories. They don’t know their name. Don’t have a favourite smell or sound, a longed-for taste or a book in which they might lose themselves. They have nothing.”
Peter Crowther – “The Artemis Line”
Based on the tales of the brothers Grimm, this book consists of two woven bodies of stories. The first are the old fairy tales which are presented in easily accessible versions from Grimm’s Household Tales, not to be missed or skipped. They provide important counterpoints to the surrounding stories, are generally much shorter than the newer fiction, and in many cases prepare the landing field for the next story in important ways.
New stories modernizing the older, established tales are the second part and the real meat of the anthology. Horror abounds. These are bloody, scary, nasty tales, faithfully updating the original Grimm themes. Huge liberties are taken by the authors differentiating these newer spins from older ones, and some are entirely new.
Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Robert Shearman, Michael Marshall Smith, Markus Heitz and John Ajvide Lindqvist knock it right out of the park, though most of the rest of the new fiction is quite good as well.
In particular two authors take it even further in a book filled with great material. Old and new tales, with a huge portion of the new fiction being excellent, these two stand as brilliant examples of how this is done to perfection.
“The Ash-Boy” – Christopher Fowler
Cinderella stories are never as well told as this one. Make sure to read the preceding, older retelling of Cinderella to get a firm grip on just how bloody this story really is. The oldie is a favorite, and moving from it into “The Ash-Boy” leaves the feeling the author was perhaps transposing the tale a little too accurately until around halfway through when it rockets into its own life. The characters and events differ drastically from the original, and the whole thing explodes into an ending that will have you fist-pumping.
“The Silken People” – Joanne Harris
A young girl is told by her nurse about The Lacewing King, or the king of the fairies, and to the nurse’s consternation spends all her time trying to locate the king based on the nurse’s pointers like looking from the corner of your eye and looking when first waking when fairies are most visible. A touching tale of longing and belonging, this one brims over with magic, sadness and wonder, as a penultimate fairy tale should.
This collection may seem a little niche to some in that it borrows so heavily from older material, but trust the editor and the authors. They do a great job of bringing the book to life.
Fearie Tales is a masterful collection of the themed short form, bringing modernized fairy tales of our childhoods and the childhoods of our fathers full-circle.